Nothing like a little singletrack, dark pine forests, oak-lined meadows, desert shrubland, and orange groves to bring riders of all types together for a great cause.

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Hellride. For those not familiar, Hellride is a 36 mile self-guided mountain bike ride that is held annually on the Santa Ana River trail in the San Bernardino Mountains.  It starts with a shuttle up to South Fork Campground above Angelus Oaks and finishes at local Redlands brewery, Hangar 24, after around 2500 feet of climbing and 7000 feet of descending.

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Riders were ready to load buses bright and early at Hangar 24 Brewery.

It’s been happening for more than 20 years, and I’ve ridden it for the last 9.  I have seen it grow from around 15-20 riders to the huge ride it is today.  Over the years, I went from being a rider who could barely finish the whole thing without dying, to one of the organizers.  I have seen it morph from a simple group ride, into an incredibly successful Bike for Bender fundraiser, first to support our dear friend Robert Bender who passed away from Cancer in 2011 and then from there to continue to support the local cycling community in his memory.

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There is something special about this ride. Part of it’s magic is obviously the trail itself.  Almost all singletrack, the ride takes you through dark pine forests and oak-lined meadows, out into the sharp, rocky terrain of the mid mountain chaparral, and then further on into dry desert shrubland before dropping you out into the orange groves below.  Sections of barely ridden, exposed singletrack with sprawling views of the valley below certainly contribute to the appeal of this ride, along with the swooping ribbons of trail through the fall colours.  But personally, I think what makes this ride truly great, are the riders themselves. It’s a ride where XC riders, downhillers, racers, weekend warriors, fatbikers, cyclocross riders, and even some tandem riders, all unite, and ride together, getting back to the essence of mountain biking.

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The trails aren’t marked or taped, and nobody is there to race or beat strava times. Everyone is smiling and having fun, and people are courteous and friendly, helping each other find their way and fix their flats. There are faster people and slower people, teenagers and parents, and this year, even pirates and monsters serving margaritas at our aid station.  For me, it’s a chance to see riders that I don’t see as often as I would like, ride and chat with different people and styles of riders, and to both lead and follow on some of the sweetest singletrack you’ll find in Southern California.  I find myself riding in some pretty amazing trains of riders, and can’’t help but smile as I watch the groups weave through the trees.

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Midway aid station, run by Bob and Marion Bender is much appreciated after the Middle Control Climb.

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The 2015 ride was on Halloween, so some riding-friendly costumes came out!  Our group about to drop into the trail from South Fork campground.

I’ve seen every type of weather for Hellride, from cold, frosty fall days, to hot summerlike conditions, to deep snow, and pouring rain.  We have it around the same time every year, but somehow it’s always different.  The riders seem to eat all this up, arriving in droves, proud to show their grit and determination no matter the weather.  I’m not sure what other sport you’d see this kind of spirit.  We mountain bikers are a hardy bunch!

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Impressive riding by this tandem mountain bike team!  There are some tight turns on the trail!

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The aid station had some surprise visitors this year providing midway margaritas!

In 2015, nobody had to be too immune to the weather.  It was cool but not too cold at the top, and warm but not too hot near the bottom.  Other than the lack of rain to bring out those tacky conditions we all love, it was the best day weather-wise we’ve had in a few years.

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Hellride regulars enjoying the fall weather.

As the ride has grown, Bike for Bender has had to adapt to accommodate the larger groups.  A few years back, the start/end of the ride was moved to Hangar 24 to allow for more space for parking…and access to more amazing beer. This year the big change was to use buses to shuttle riders to the top. This turned out to be a huge success, saving a number of people from the tedious task of car retrieval when they would rather be drinking beer.  For those who did shuttle themselves, the folks at Crazy Bear Bikes were kind enough to make a run up to the top with them after the ride, saving them the task of searching for a ride, and making their self shuttle a little easier.

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The ride also had the biggest, most lucrative raffle we’ve ever had, with tons of amazing sponsors digging deep to support our event and our cause. Bike for Bender couldn’t be more stoked on our supporters from 2015.  Definitely some happy riders going home with swag at the end of the day.  We were also incredibly grateful for all the volunteers.  So many wonderful people reached out looking to help.  Parents of the high school mountain bikers, ride leaders from various local riding groups, and just generally helpful people stepped up big time, driving bike trailers, helping load and unload bikes, and getting people parked in a more organized fashion.  All of this helped Bike for Bender be more organized than ever the morning of the ride.  The mountain bike community at large and the volunteers really make this event what it is.  Bike for Bender is entirely volunteer based, and it’s an amazing feeling when it all comes together and everyone finishes the ride happy and excited to come back next year.

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Getting riders checked in and ready for the buses.

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Other than the great trails, amazing company, and delicious post ride brews, the stories are often what make this ride memorable. So, special shout outs go to: ‘the guy who fell off the cliff into the bushes’, ‘the guy who slammed his knee into a stump, but soldiered on without complaint’, ‘the guy who took the faceplant’, ‘the aid station margarita pirate and crew’, ‘the folks who got lost’, ‘the guy who got the most soaked in the creek’, and all the other people whose adventurous spirits left them still smiling with us at the end of a long day.  Share your stories in the comments below!

Bike for Bender is happy to announce the dates for Hellride 2016:  Oct 29

Be sure to keep your eyes on http://www.bikeforbender.com/sart-hell-ride/ for details as the date gets closer!

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